The hot water industry is constantly evolving, making it necessary to research new trends and products in the hot tub market. For instance, there is growing interest in the use of natural products for water conditioning, balancing, and making water maintenance easier. This is all driven by consumer knowledge of, and their need for, an improved bathing experience.
This article will discuss the latest trends in natural products, and address some of the most frequently asked questions.
What enzymes are and are not
Enzyme-based products are intended to assist hot tub owners when balancing and maintaining their water by lessening the use of harsher chemicals (e.g. chlorine [Cl] and/or bromine [Br]). Enzyme products are considered ‘natural’ as they are often plant based. There are thousands of identified enzymes occurring naturally in the world, covering many differing functions. It is helpful to think of enzymes as catalysts that assist in the myriad of necessary functions in the earth’s ecosystem as well as the human body.
In the case of hot tub water conditioners, enzymes are used to remove the food source for bacteria from the water. Additionally, some enzymes help to maintain the water’s pH, making water balance procedures easier. What they do well is make hot tub water feel soft, offering a pleasant olfactory experience for bathers, while lessening the frequency of water testing/balancing and, thus, reducing the negative effect of chemical ‘dumping’ on the environment.
It is important for consumers to understand, however, that these products are not sanitizers and should not be promoted as such. Chlorine and bromine kill bacteria outright and are the only sanitizers registered with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).
That said, these registered sanitizers are imperfect and can cause other problems if applied incorrectly or should lack of user knowledge exist. Broadly stated, the issues some hot tub owners have with these two registered sanitizers are twofold:
- The volume of sanitizer used is often overdone by the hot tub owner who is unskilled or uninterested in water balancing techniques. In turn, this can cause unpleasant odors, eye irritation, and possible damage to equipment, hot tub pillows, and/or bathing suits, etc.
- Even with properly balanced water, some hot tub owners may have a dermal sensitivity to these chemicals, often due to an allergic reaction, but sometimes just a general sensitivity to chemicals.
In addition to the above, there are also hot tub owners who prefer natural products in all aspects of their lives; therefore, their needs with respect to hot tub water maintenance reflect this choice. There is a notion in the industry that these ‘type’ of consumers make up a ‘subculture;’ however, this viewpoint is misplaced. The desire for products that are less harmful to the environment and, by extension, to hot tub bathers is likely to perpetuate. In essence, the natural products that are currently available will continue to evolve as more knowledge is gained in their proper use. Therefore, hot tub retailers should take note as they can broaden their customer base by catering to this market.
Knowledge is important in this market segment as ‘natural’ products are not intended to be water clarifiers, and are typically slow in clearing up cloudy water, but when given a day or two, they perform these duties just fine. Where the problem lies is consumers can be impatient as they want to use their hot tub every day. In this case, they need to know how to assist an enzyme product in performing its job.
To do this, they need to understand the tiny particles causing cloudy water are usually from perspiration, body lotions, deodorants, makeup, hair sprays, etc. Therefore, to assist a natural product in this scenario, a non-chlorine shock is required as it will act as a flocculent, allowing small particles to join and become larger so they can be captured by the filtration system. From time to time as bather loads and frequency of use change, hot tub owners need to be instructed on these best practices. Chlorine-based shocks and flocculants can help hot tub owners stay ahead of the cloudy water experience, which often occurs after heavy use.
Application of knowledge
While most industry professionals are well versed on the methods of water balance, a significant number of hot tub owners may not be. Further, many may not even want to spend the time and effort to learn about it. Consumers prefer a quick, simple fix to what they perceive to be a water maintenance burden. These consumer traits are not likely to change; therefore, retailers should cater to it, and use it to their advantage.
In this regard, savvy hot tub retailers should have a number of options for their customers with respect to water maintenance products in an attempt to provide personalized water treatment regimens. As part of this, every hot tub retailer should have natural, enzyme-based hot tub water maintenance products in their sales repertoire for customers who may prefer these options. Retailers should not simply offer them, but all store staff should have knowledge on these products as to help customers understand what they are and how to use them.
For example, for dermally sensitive or allergic customers, more creative ways of water maintenance are required. One popular remedy is to ensure the proper water hardness and alkalinity levels first, then add an enzyme product, and shock before or after each use. This allows chlorine to off-gas rather than remain in the water to cause possible bather irritation. This can be achieved by allowing the jets to run while the hot tub cover is off. In this case, a non-stabilized chlorine works best as it will off-gas the quickest.
Most retailers recommend regular shocking of hot tub water, some level of sanitizer, and the use of a non-chlorine shock (when advised). Despite some disagreement in the industry, some enzyme-based product manufacturers also recommend the use of the Hamilton Index™ (pH range between 7.8 and 8.2) for water balance when using natural water clarifiers versus the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI) (pH range between 7.2 and 7.8).
Some industry professionals will object to the pH levels recommended by the Hamilton Index;™ however, with the hardness and alkalinity set properly, no equipment damage will occur and the sanitizer is not restricted in doing its job.
For customers, once the water has been balanced, a sanitizer-filled float, along with an enzyme water conditioner is often all that is required—aside from filter cleaning—to maintain the hot tub. Sales of other chemicals may be reduced once customers start using enzyme water conditioners; however, customers will return to the store happy, purchase more natural products, and refer their friends, neighbors, and family, which helps increase the bottom line.
As these products become more common in routine hot tub maintenance, it is incumbent on retailers to perform due diligence to properly guide their customers in the use of natural water conditioning products.
This article was written by Brent Vogan and originally appeared on Pool & Spa Marketing [link].